This Week In Ludicrous Brexit Carnage, Explained For Americans
In which Boris Johnson loses a bunch of votes, falls out with his brother, upsets the police, overpays for a fish, and calls Jeremy Corbyn a chicken.
Greetings, friends. In Britain our week began with our shiny new Prime Minister, Boris Johnson, seen here on the right, giving a speech about how all was going brilliantly ahead of a crucial Brexit vote.
Sadly, this argument was somewhat undermined by the fact that one of his own MPs "crossed the floor" — i.e. joined another party — as the speech began ... which meant he no longer had a parliamentary majority.
Then we moved on to the vote itself, aka the one where Jacob Rees-Mogg decided to lounge around on the front bench for reasons best known to himself.
If there's one thing to be said for Brexit, it has lead to an unprecedented boost in the meme and viral tweet sectors of our economy.
This was Johnson's first Commons vote as prime minister — and it was a big one, giving backbench MPs control of the order paper to pass their own anti no-deal Brexit laws.
Johnson immediately purged 21 rebels from the Tory party — which was a huge deal, since many of them were not insignificant figures. Some had served in the cabinet recently, and even Winston Churchill's grandson was now on the naughty step.
All of which lead to some rather bad optics that evening on TV. Many moderate Tories were horrified at the shift their party appeared to be taking.
By this point we were in full-blown political crisis territory. Normal, well-adjusted people were quite literally watching BBC Parliament in the evenings.
Back to the no deal-blocking legislation. It was likely to pass, but it had to make it through the House of Lords first.
Never let it be said our parliamentary democracy isn't fit for purpose.
Meanwhile, Boris Johnson, having lost his grip on the Brexit process, had little choice but to try to call a snap general election. Unfortunately, the House of Commons didn't let him.
Under the Fixed-term Parliaments Act, Johnson needed a two-thirds majority in the House of Commons to make it happen. He lost by a huge 136 votes. Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn, having spent much of the last few weeks calling for an election, refused to do so, until the no-deal legislation was passed.
And this was likely a factor in the no-deal legislation eventually passing, meaning Labour didn't have to use a rare "guillotine motion" in the Lords (Britain is a very normal country). Below, you can see a video of what it looks like when sanity prevails in our politics, i.e. still really weird.
A day later the Tories were attempting to troll Corbyn, although they mostly ended up getting ratioed by *checks notes* KFC, over his failure to support the call for an election.
This was a pretty bold move given Johnson had just lost his first three commons votes, his majority, had just seen legislation passed stopping — or at least delaying — the one weapon in his arsenal that carried any weight with Europe, had been reduced to asking the opposition for an election, and it also seems the case that Corbyn will very soon be happy to go ahead with it.
But you know, never underestimate the power of populism.
All of this might make you think Labour is in a ~good~ place over Brexit. Oh, my sweet Summer child. They have had a good few days, which in British politics, translates to about 30 seconds.
On Friday, when things were supposed to be calming down, Boris Johnson's own brother resigned from the government as a result of his Brexit policies. Literally everyone on Twitter made the same joke.
Later, Johnson was giving us another speech about how everything was, in fact, fine. For some reason, he decided to do this in front of a wall of police officers, which really put the criticism from his opponents about him being an unelected dictator to bed.
It did not go quite to plan. First of all, this happened.
And finally this.
But by Saturday we'd all moved on to a new cock up, so it was fine.
And the week was pretty much over, so nothing else could go wrong, could it?
A final note: while this political chaos is no doubt fun to witness to a degree, and most of us are managing to sustain a level of emotional detachment, there's a dark underside. The real world effects — economic and social — are very much with us, and they are increasing in severity with every day the crisis deepens.
It's all fun and games... until one day, it's not.